Performing islam in europe : a case study of Poetic Pilgrimage´s performance of empowerment in-between art and religion

University essay from Södertörns högskola/Institutionen för historia och samtidsstudier


In this thesis I explore performances of empowerment in the work and artistic persona of Londonbased hip hop duo Poetic Pilgrimage. By using intersectionality, critical race and performance theories, I sketched a possible reading of their performance of religion in the complex context of their positionality as black, british, women, muslim converts and performing artists. I looked specifically at how performance shapes possibilities of cultural and religious interpretations of race, religion, nationality, gender and the arts.

The question that guides me is: how do they shape their Empowerment with their Performance? After becoming familiar with the material, I realised that one way of answering this question is by looking into how they relate to

  1. an intersectional idea of Empowerment, namely how they relate to race and gender in their islamic art (religion/occupation/class) and
  2. how Empowerment is directly connected with Performance, it is the Performance that enables their Empowerment: artistic Performance that shapes their ethnographic Performance of muslimness, womanhood, black womanhood, muslim womanhood, women artistry, britishness, etc. So in this text, it is their Performance of categories and themes that constitute strategies and processes or Empowerment.

My focus of Empowerment is on representation, which makes me define Empowerment as the act of learning to Love yourself and others in positive ways. This is inspired in the work of Audre Lorde. And it is reflected in Poetic Pilgrimage's own stance, as revealed by the opening statement of this thesis, We have no LOVE OF SELF.

My focus on Performance means that I distance myself from constructs of identity markers that are not sensitive to construction and deconstruction. My underlying approach is to reflect on how Poetic Pilgrimage are and have been constructed by deconstructing them, question them. Taking into account that I cannot not think intersectionally, all themes under scrutiny here deal with ways in which Poetic Pilgrimage expose, explore and create islam and the arts of Performance to forge possibilities of Empowerment, in a way that I attempt to research all categories intersected.

In the first thematic chapter (black european islam), emphasis is put on race and in the second thematic chapter (modesty is the new cool), focus turns to gender, though understood in relation to each other and to other categories, such as nationality, class, occupation, ethnicity.

In terms of material, I focus on the final product (on stage/videoclips), having Poetic Pilgrimage's Performance on facebook as public artistic persona as a framework for the event of artistic Performance itself. Performing self, or everyday life Performance using artistic means is the trade mark of hip hop culture, which Poetic Pilgrimage are a part of.

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